Are you eating authentic Mexican food? Start by observing the customers and staff. Do the waitresses speak English? Do all the customers speak English? Does the menu have descriptions next to their plates or just pictures? How strong are the Margaritas?
On our way home from church our oldest shouts from the back, reading our minds, “How about we eat Mexican?” Our girl in the middle chimes in, “I want tacos.” Our fourth is always excited to talk about food, so he adds his loud baby talk to the conversation. “Ok, I am looking up a restaurant,” Johnna says. We land at a place with plastic peppers hanging from the ceiling. Maybe they were keeping the bears away. They obviously weren’t there for decoration and I didn’t see any bears. Johnna and our girl in the middle head to the bathroom. I tell Johnna I love her and prepare for our goodbyes. It was just the men outside, a nice Texas breeze, chips, salsa, and queso. Our youngest is sleeping next to me and our fourth decides the high-chair is dead to him. He will be eating in my arms today.
My neighbor a few tables down asks, “Ey bro what’s today’s date?” I tell him March 26th. The guy is tatted up from eyes, to neck, and on down. Why he asked me and not the closer neighbors of his same ethnicity next to him, I don’t know. Next he gets up, approaches our table and says, “My phone isn’t working.” I am immediately thinking how can I avoid giving this guy my phone. “My phone says Jan 9th 1971.” No that’s the last time this restaurant has been renovated, but I digress. He shows me a random receipt that says 2017 03 26 and asks, “I’m not sure how they got the three.” “Year, month, day, but it’s accurate,” I reply. He thanks me and does his thing for the remainder of the meal.
Johnna returns and we ate without outside interruption. The pawn shop down the street, the Dollar General next door, and the bail bonds were quiet this Sunday afternoon. There is usually some kind of internal interruption from within our family. Our girl in the middle is potty training now and she pees every time she’s bored. Our fourth likes to dip his own chips or else! There is always a mess to clean up. And our second finds something mischievous (or creative depending on one’s perspective and mood) to explore. The advertisements on the table, the durability of the condiments, or the structural integrity of the seats are all viable experiments to study. I pay and receive a receipt with no reference to what we ate or drink. I guess ~$45 is about right; everything on the menu said $9.99 anyway.
Visiting churches have much of the same similarities to our Mexican dining experience. We have been to five different churches in Waco and listened to sermons from a few more. We have utilized our go-to website, 9marks.org, searched for Master’s Seminary grads, and asked countless people what churches are in the area. In Waco, there is legitimately a church on every corner. I am from the south and I think there are too many churches in Waco. There are also a lot of Mexican restaurants, but it doesn’t mean they are all good.
Finding authentic Mexican and an authentic church is equally discouraging, intimidating, and time-consuming. I look for an authentic church, the same way I look for authentic Mexican. I observe the customers and the staff. Do the customers speak the Bible? Does the staff speak the Bible? I don’t mean Christianese where we are throwing out theological terms but the Word hasn’t taken ahold of our heart. I mean does the Bible, the Christian walk, or the anything about Jesus come up in conversation? Are we ordering off the menu of the Bible or are we just going to reference the menu, but talk about tips for a better life? Is the message stronger than normal because it accesses the supernatural gospel that pours forth from every page of the Bible?
The pastor will announce for everyone to greet their neighbor. Sometimes people just smile and shake hands. Why would you not say your name? I’ll throw mine out to see if I’ll get one in return but now it’s awkward because they are already turning. If you happen to meet a couple inclined to exchange names the conversation afterwards usually goes just like that with my neighbor from the restaurant; friendly but suspicious and surface level. Replace the tattoos with a coffee cup and the cell phone with a church bulletin.
However, in an authentic church after the usual name, where you from, what do you do, I have found that people try to determine how they can help you. They will tell us about the church, small group, men’s/women’s study, why they are members at the church, and they are almost ready to take us out to lunch to exchange testimonies. People are usually nice, but we are very encouraged when people take a genuine interest in our walk and want to walk alongside with us.
We are thankful for new friends that love the Lord, but hope to be in a stable body soon. As we church search, one thing that remains consistent is our daily Bible reading, morning prayer time, and family devotionals. We strive to average about three family ‘Verse Times’ a week. We sing praises, memorize scripture, study a verse, and pray together as a family. Prayers from children under three are often hilarious, but deeply theological. Regardless of what church we land in, it is my responsibility to ensure Team King worships God, grows in Christ, and repents of our sinfulness. I undoubtedly have more bad days than good ones, thank God for grace. However, having a body to support this difficult calling is essential. Thank you for your prayers as our family continues to transition into our new life.